Your marketing team spends weeks working on an amazing campaign, dreaming up creative ideas and strategies they believe will set your business apart from the competition and set your phones ringing with customer calls. But after all their hard work, someone from finance comes in and says those dreaded words: “We don’t have the budget to do that.”
I recently wrote about the disconnect that I often see between sales and marketing teams in business-to-business (B2B) companies. I expected to hear from lots of business owners facing such problems, and I did. But I was surprised by how frequently they mentioned another gap, one between marketing and finance.
At many companies I’ve worked with, the only marketing information that is given to the finance department are high-level goals or basic marketing strategies. That’s the root of the lack of mutual understanding between the two teams.
To remedy this divide, start by having the head of finance attend a marketing planning workshop, or a key meeting in the strategy development process. Involving your CFO allows them to help set operating parameters for the marketing team, understand what the other department’s goals are, and—most critically—build their knowledge of how those aims will be achieved. Since they have no prior experience with marketing, most finance folks don’t understand what it requires or costs, or what to expect from their colleagues in that department.
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Getting the two teams together very early in a marketing planning process also obliges your marketers to put numbers in place. Marketing’s job is not to produce pretty pieces of sales collateral or a new logo—those are tactics, not objectives. Rather, the goal of your marketing department is to produce measurable results for your business, whether that be market awareness, leads, or increased share-of-wallet. Everyone on the team needs to speak the language of numbers, and having to work out their plans in front of finance folks is a good way to remind them of that.
One joint meeting at the beginning isn’t enough. Marketing and finance need to meet every six months to review how much of the strategy has been realized, whether campaigns are on budget, and how results are tracking against the plan.
Be warned: This formula only works when each team respects the others’ skillset and experience. That’s not always the case in siloed companies, so your people might need some executive support and guidance to get there. Spend a bit of time outlining your appreciation for the capabilities of the finance and marketing teams, and explain why you believe the company will achieve stronger growth if they work together.
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Another way to get both groups onside is to show them what they have in common. Companies like MasterCard and Intel are doing this using the shared language that both marketing and finance speak: data. Smaller firms would do well to follow their lead. If your company is starting to evaluate how the data in your CRM system or from past sales can drive future growth, you have the basis for a stronger collaboration between finance and marketing. Inexpensive platforms now allow even the smallest businesses to track results and measure ROI more accurately. The two teams can use that data to collaborate on more effective and efficient marketing strategies.
The best part: None of this costs you anything. Collaboration and communication between your marketing and finance teams is the best ROI of all.
Lisa Shepherd is author of the new book The Radical Sales Shift: 20 Lessons from 20 Leaders on How to Use Marketing to Grow Sales in B2B Companies and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She has been the youngest female CEO on the PROFIT Ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.
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